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Tower Hamlets Mayor Rahman May Rejoin Labour Party

Wednesday 18th June 2014

LBC has learnt Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman may be allowed back in to the Labour party.

Lutfur RahmanThe controversial politician - who won a second term as Mayor standing as an Independent last month - is currently facing a number of investigations following his victory.

LBC's Political Editor Theo Usherwood has obtained the minutes of a meeting of Labour's National Executive Committee - the Party's governing body.

"It states that former Tower Hamlets councillor and committee member Christine Shawcroft has asked for reconciliation between Labour and Lutfur Rahman - and that she was supported by several others," Theo explained.

"This meeting was held on June 3 - that's after the results and despite an investigation by forensic accountants which is due to report later this month about the way the Mayor's administration handed out public grants.

"And of course there were also concerns raised at the times about the count at the mayoral election."

Government-appointed forensic accountants are due to report by the end of June on claims Mr Rahman's administration mishandled public funds and Scotland Yard is investigating claims of electoral malpractice in Tower Hamlets following last month's poll.

The High Court is going to scrutinise the ballot papers after they were handed a petition which alleges a number of irregularities - including electoral fraud, ghost voting, as well as the fraudulent submission of up to 4,000 postal votes.

"We have quite a list but on the other hand there are two significant reasons why Labour would like him back," Theo added.

"One, they automatically regain control of the council. A number of councillors switched to becoming Independent after Mr Rahman left.

"Two, next year we have a General Election. If Mr Rahman or one of his colleagues decides to stand as an Independent in either Bethnal Green and Bow or Poplar and Limehouse, they could not only win - or they could split the vote and again Labour would lose - possibly to a Respect candidate."

It is thought that Lutfur Rahman does want to rejoin the Labour Party. Theo has been told the Mayor has 'Labour in his blood'.

"He is part of the Labour family and has Labour values," Theo explained. "And that's the rub. If you speak to his supporters they claim he has been better at implementing Labour policies than many of its own councils.

"It was the first to introduce the living wage, it's built more homes to rent than any council and it hasn't closed any libraries despite the cuts."

Ken Livingstone has told LBC that he thinks Lutfur Rahman should be readmitted to the Labour Party.

Speaking to LBC's Iain Dale in his first interview since losing to Lutfur Rahman, Labour's Mayoral candidate John Biggs criticised the former Mayor of London for getting involved.

"I'm very disappointed that he's stepping into this without really knowing some of the facts," Mr Biggs commented.

"He seems to be accepting this argument from the current Mayor that, for some bizarre reason, the Labour Party in Tower Hamlets is radically different from anywhere else, that Mayor Rahman would have us believe that he's a mainstream Labour guy and it's just the local Labour members who are the renegades who, in some way, walked away from him. It is actually the other way round."

John told Iain he could not "plausibly see" Mayor Rahman returning to the Labour Party but he would not rule it out entirely.

"I'm a loyal Labour Party member and the Party needs to make decisions based on evidence and reason and reasonableness and if it felt, in the fullness of time...

"I'll put it another way which was, when he was first elected Mayor I made a point of going to see him, I went to see him on several occasions and he was very exercised about his exclusion from the Party and how he could come back and I spoke to him about the sort of steps that might need to be taken, about building confidence in both directions for that to happen.

"So I didn't rule it out, this is a dynamic world and I don't think intrinsically he's a bad guy but I think he's got some fairly dodgy company, let's not dwell on that for the moment."

John also said he did not think that the local party members would accept a blank sheet being given to the Mayor of Tower Hamlets upon a potential return.

"I don't think that Party members locally would find that palatable given what's happened in-between, give the accusations that have been made against us and some of the cynical politics, the behaviour in the council chamber and so on.

"There's quite a lot of bad blood and we live in a real political world and people do mend bridges and I'd like those bridges to be mended but you can't mend them on the basis of supreme conquering, it's got to be by conciliation."

However Mr Biggs said if Mayor Rahman did rejoin the Party he would not walk out in protest.

"I'm a Labour Party loyalist and I plan to be buried as a Labour Party member."